England cricketer gets behind city bid

26 January 2011, 15:22 | Updated: 10 February 2011, 14:07

A member of England's winning Ashes team has put his support behind a town which wants to become a city.

Monty Panesar spoke at the launch of Luton's official bid this morning (Wednesday). The town's competing for the status which is being awarded as part of the Queen's Diamond Jubilee Celebrations in 2012.

Speaking alongside the cricketing star, were joint chairs of the Love Luton bid - Lord McKenzie of Luton and Glyn Jones, the MD of London Luton Airport. Derek Ludlow - the bid's business champion - also spoke to the assembled crowd of MPs, sponsors, media and school children.

The pupils at the launch were all asked to write a message about why they love Luton, before being taken for a ride on the new City Status Bus, which has been provided by one of the sponsors, Arriva, and will travel on one of Luton's busiest bus routes.

Glyn Jones told Heart if the town's successful in the bid, it will boost the local economy.

"If you look at what's happened to other places that have been successful in their bid - if you take Sunderland, for example, and Newport. Sunderland report a five billion pound impact on the economy and 30,000 jobs. And, as I understand it, Newport put the acquisition of the Ryder Cup - which bought substantial gains in terms of tourism income to the area, down to their city status. So that's the kind of impact on the economy that we're looking for."

Mr Jones estimates the bid will cost around £50,000 of public money - with the rest of the cash coming from business sponsors. He claims the public contribution is a small amount of money compared to the potential benefits the status could bring.

Monty Panesar told Heart why he's so keen to get behind the town's campaign:

"I've been Luton born and bred. It's something that I feel is the next step up for Luton. Everything that it has, is all in place, with good transport links and the re-development of Vauxhall."

"I just want the whole of the town to get behind us. It's a real great chance for us to grow as a town and also it gives us opportunity for people to grow as well...it'll benefit everyone."